With one consuming roar along the shingle
The long wave claws and rakes the pebbles down
To where its backwash and the next wave mingle,
A mounting arch of water weedy-brown
Against the tide the off-shore breezes blow.
Oh wind and water, this is Felixstowe.
In winter when the sea winds chill and shriller
Than those of summer, all their cold unload
Full on the gimcrack attic of the villa
Where I am lodging off the Orwell Road,
I put my final shilling in the meter
And only make my loneliness completer.
In eighteen ninety-four when we were founded,
Counting our Reverend Mother we were six,
How full of hope we were and prayer-surrounded
"The Little Sisters of the Hanging Pyx".
We built our orphanage. We ran our school.
Now only I am left to keep the rule.
Here in the gardens of the Spa Pavillion
Warm in the whisper of a summer sea,
The cushioned scabious, a deep vermillion,
With white pins stuck in it, looks up at me
A sun-lit kingdom touched by butterflies
And so my memory of winter dies.
Across the grass the poplar shades grow longer
And louder clang the waves along the coast.
The band packs up. The evening breeze is stronger
And all the world goes home to tea and toast.
I hurry past a cakeshop's tempting scones
Bound for the red brick twilight of St. John's.
"Thou knowest my down sitting and mine uprising"
Here where the white light burns with steady glow
Safe from the vain world's silly sympathizing,
Safe with the Love that I was born to know,
Safe from the surging of the lonely sea
My heart finds rest, my heart finds rest in Thee.
From "Collected Poems"
© The Estate of John Betjeman
Reproduced by kind permission of John Murray (Publishers).